On Campus

Older students need not apply?

Despite what an administrator says, a Queen's-Trent program appears to only be open to students coming directly from high school

I recently got some mail from a returning student who is rather upset that a program he wishes to pursue – the Queen’s-Trent Concurrent Education Program – is apparently now only available to high school students. This caught my attention. By now anyone who reads my blog will know I think there’s great value in taking some time off school. That’s not for everyone, of course, but it needs to be a valid choice. I am automatically opposed to anything that punishes students merely for taking time off school.

Now, I spoke to someone from that program. I can’t say who because this person didn’t want to go on record. Fair enough. This administrator insists the program is in fact open to older students and there’s simply a restriction on the number of transfer credits they’ll accept – or in other words how far along a student can be in their studies before beginning. That’s reasonable. Some programs are just so substantial that beyond a certain point you can’t start them properly. That sounded awfully good on the phone, especially when I heard about all the older students who are apparently in the program and those who had some prior post-secondary experience. I resolved to write a positive blog about what turned out to not be true.

I’m looking at the website for the program again. I’ll invite my readers here to interpret this quotation for yourselves. “Candidates with post-secondary courses (ie community college or another University), normally considered for transfer with advanced standing, are not eligible for admission to this program. This is a high school entry program.” To me, this unambiguously states that anyone with prior post-secondary experience is simply not eligible to apply. The one exception is 15 spots they hold for Trent students exclusively, who can apply after first year. Beyond that, I’m frankly not sure if older students who have no post-secondary experience but took time off after high school are eligible to apply. I can read this both ways. If I were in that boat, it would be enough to deter me, anyway.

I think this kind of message is awful for two reasons. First, some students simply aren’t ready to attend university right away. They shouldn’t feel pressured into doing so for fear of losing this or that opportunity, award, or support. Second, when a student is ready to return, it’s already complicated and daunting enough. There’s no need to make a student feel like he or she somehow messed up, and lost this great opportunity, right at the time when that student should be most excited about returning to school. Policies of this sort are just a losing proposition all around.

I’d love some feedback from readers along these lines. Give me your stories about programs and policies that seem designed to punish students who don’t approach education in the “right” way. I’m especially interested in anything that’s only available to students exiting high school but not to older students. Of course some programs are not very forgiving about spotty track records, and it’s true some programs are very competitive, but give me those examples where it isn’t your grades that count against you but simply what you did or didn’t do at the right time and in the right order.

I’ll admit that I’m not well equipped to do serious investigative reporting here. But if it sounds like a story I’ll at least pick up the phone. Tell me about the policy that upsets you and maybe I’ll embarrass your institution for you.

Oh, and one more thing. The Queens-Trent Concurrent Education program looks like a great opportunity for anyone who wants to enter teaching. But their website looks like it was designed by a twelve year-old in 1995. That cheap shot is just for hacking on older students.

Questions are welcome at jeff.rybak@utoronto.ca. Even the ones I don’t post will still receive answers, and where I do use them here I’ll remove identifying information.

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